At 5 years old, Zach Hamilton lost an eye to a BB gun.
No, he didn't shoot his eye out.
"He whacked me in the face with it," Zach, 15, said of his older brother.
Zach says he was an innocent bystander.
"That's a point of contention in our house," said Zach's mother, Kristine Hamilton, who said his brother contends the boys were roughhousing with the toy.
Details aside, the incident earned Zach an ocular implant and prosthetic eye.
A decade later, the Lakeside High School sophomore was the first at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and one of fewer than 20 people in the state to undergo a new procedure to help fill in around the implant, which he has since outgrown, to make his prosthetic eye look less conspicuous.
The procedure is "relatively new, but it's got a lot of potential," said Dr. Dilip A. Thomas, the director of Occuplastics and Orbital Surgery at the MCGHealth Eye Care Center.
The procedure involves injecting hydro-gel pellets around the implant to provide volume to the eye socket.
Having his eye look as normal as possible was important for Zach, who spends much of his time in the theater. He is active with his school drama troupe, the Augusta Players and Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre.
Zach's procedure and new prosthetic came just in time; his next school production starts Thursday.
In Zach's accident, his optic nerve was damaged and the globe of his eye ruptured. The globe had to be removed.
"The removal, a lot of it, was for cosmetic reasons," his mother said. His eye was sinking back and turning gray, "so it was very obvious he had a blind eye," she said.
His implant attaches in his eye socket and is covered with tissue. The implant consists of a round white base with an attachment containing a colored piece that fits over it like a large contact lens.
As Zach grew, the implant didn't, so the prosthetic needed revisions to compensate.
"It (was) getting too small, which means I have to get the fake eye itself bigger and thicker and stuff," Zach said. "It was getting more gangly and protruding more."
Hamilton said Thomas gave them many options to help correct the problem by adding more volume to the socket under the prosthetic eye. Surgery to replace the implant was the first consideration.
"The type of implant that he has, I've taken out before, and it is a bear to take out," the doctor said.
Blood vessels and other tissues grow into the implant, he said.
"So that was part of the reason for looking at alternatives," Thomas said.
Hamilton said she and her son decided to pursue the new outpatient procedure after Thomas explained the benefits. Recovery time was short; Zach missed just one day of school. Also, the bruising and swelling were minimal.
Zach got injections of the pellets, similar to the material that make up contact lenses, around his implant in January.
He had to go without a prosthetic eye for about a month during healing.
"It wasn't bad," said Zach, who acknowledged that he had a little fun using his missing eye to joke with people. "I got to wear sunglasses to school. That was awesome."
By early February, Zach had his acrylic prosthetic eye, which he says is smaller and more comfortable and matches his eye color, too.
"It feels much better," he said. "It's not as bulgy. My eye can actually close and blink, and I don't have to look like I'm winking at somebody."
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